We’ve been rather quiet on this blog and online in general because something major happened. When the earth moves and paradigms shift, it’s best to stop and pause and take notice. When tragedy strikes at Christmas, everything changes.
Last Wednesday evening, we both got dolled up and drove to Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah for what promised to be the pinnacle of our achievement together as a culinary couple. We arrived at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray feeling excited and really grateful that our hard work was recognised. We were both nominated for and finalists in two categories in the prestigious BBC Good Food ME Awards.
As we schmoozed other industry people in the lobby, I noticed the arrival of one particular person. It was the legendary Dominic De Sousa. He walked right up to me and we hugged. Usually we shake hands, but that night we hugged. He encouraged me to follow up on something we discussed previously and that he was looking forward to hearing from me. He told me to Whatsapp him. I assured him I would. He then bypassed the gathering in the lobby and walked straight to the concert hall.
When the curtains opened that night, I figured why he hadn’t stopped with anyone else. He was the opening act. Usually he performs during the awards shows of his esteemed CPI Media Group but this time he actually opened the show. I saw him last perform last month at the Pro Chef Middle East Awards… then I snapped a quick photo and posted it to Instagram.
This time however, I felt led to get a few seconds of video. I had a front row seat with Editorial Director, Dave Reeder and other bloggers up for the Best Food Blogger Award along with us: Sumati Menda (Veggie Buzz), Judy (When Jusy Ate the Kela), Karen McLean (Secret Squirrel Food), Ishita Saha (Ishita Unblogged), Samantha Wood (Foodiva), and last year’s winner, Sally Prosser (My Custard Pie).
I managed to capture 30 seconds of his performance and stopped recording. I got distracted by the sheer number of people who were doing the very same thing, capturing his performance with their phones in order to savour and share it later. It was something behold.
By the time I looked back to the stage, things had suddenly gone wrong. Dominic had collapsed and persons rushed the stage. I knew instantly what my own reaction had to be. I prayed. My heart flooded with love for a man whom I barely knew, but who always struck me as absolutely sincere and genuine in a city of many who are otherwise. I felt his heart. His work and kindness had blessed us in such profound ways and time stood still as I prayed. Lij and I retreated to another area to pray together as well, interceding for Dominic, who we felt was fighting for his life. We didn’t know his medical history, nor did we care. There was a man, a lovely human being fighting for his life and we did the only thing we knew to do.
Dominic did not make it through that night, but I am holding on in faith and hope that he has found greater peace. He’s had a massive heart attack before and survived. I am so glad I hugged him. Lij and I are so deeply saddened to have heard of his passing but we are humbled that we had a chance to have met him. Dominic was the kind of person, you could meet once and never forget. He was pretty larger than life, yet came across as humble. So we give thanks for the life of Dominic, who marched to his own beat and sang his own tune. He was an entrepreneur, a media mogul, a motivator, an entertainer and to many, friend.
As we say in Jamaica, walk good Dominic.
Dominic pictured between Chef and Steward and some of our closest Jamaican friends in Dubai at the Pro Chef Middle East 2015 Awards in Dubai. From L-R, Garth Williams, Christine O’Callaghan, Kari Heron, Dominic De Sousa, Lij Heron, Nicole Samuels-Williams and Allison Oyelola. Christine is holding the Jamaican flag, in celebration of our patriotism. Dominic grew up with Jamaican friends in the UK and was quite fond of things Jamaican.
Here are some snippets from his colleagues and friends:
“Last night I lost one of my dearest friends in the world, someone I have been close to for over a third of my life and over half of my career. At this moment that seems like an unfillable gap. Yes, he drove me crazy. Yes, we argued. Yet we shared so much over the years that the bonds of friendship were always more important. I’ll remember the crazy moments, the thrill of mutual creativity, the times we spent just talking. All I can think of at present is that Pink Floyd song: Shine on, you crazy diamond! In a world of cliches, he really was a one off.. I am grateful for the many years I worked with him.”
– Dave Reeder, Editorial Director, CPI Dubai
“15 years is a very long time to be with someone not your immediate family. The journey from a simple webmaster to where I am today was perfectly planned by the legend. At different times, reassurance that I am on the right path made me believe in my abilities. We had fun taking it this far and that was his last words before I left him at the venue. He saidThis was the Dom Model that he perfected to positively influence each one of us in different ways. All that I can say is “We’ve all been Dom’d” and he played the ultimate prank with us and left us all speechless with an unexpected feat……..once again. For the very last time …Thank you Dom”
– Nadeem Hood, Chief Executive Officer, CPI Media Group
“…it was over 10 years ago when we first met, Dom. I was just a 14 year old aspiring journalist living in a small town in Portugal. We met at a small café on Lagos Marina and spoke for hours about my dreams of becoming an editor and one day having my own publication. I hadn’t even finished my schooling yet, but you believed in my dreams, encouraged me and treated me as an equal. All these years on and you never stopped doing those same three things. You were a true mentor and an unbelievable people’s person – I know I speak for the entire CPI team when I say everyone absolutely adored you. You brought light into the lives of everyone you met. Thank you, for everything you did for me. “Dream big, believe big, and you’ll make your life what you want it to be….” you always told me – I’ll continue to try and make you proud Dom. Rest in peace, my mentor and friend.”
– Sophie McCarrick, BBC Good Food ME Editor
‘I’m not eccentric; I’m just different’ In Iain Ackerman’s post from 2005, he describes “chatting to Dominic de Sousa is like talking to a human whirlwind. No matter how hard you try to resist, sooner or later you’ll be sucked into a vortex of enthusiasm, energy and hyperbole”. And he was right. We used to (I think some still do in his office) refer to this as being “Dom”-ed…Over the 23 years I have known him, we rarely had arguments considering how strongwilled we both were. But he was always encouraging, always full of ideas, and open to new ones. Encouraged individualism like no other employer I have ever known. He was daft and loved it. He was so firmly in my corner when it came to business. People were frustrated with him sometimes but no one ever, EVER, doubted his sincerity and his generosity.
– Mita Ray, Communication Specialist and Blogger, who wrote her own tribute post.
For those who have suffered when tragedy strikes at Christmas
For those who are mourning the loss of a close friend or relative due to a tragic loss at this time of year, or are just missing them at this time, we empathise with you and pray that in your sadness, you will also remember and celebrate the good times. We are all blessed with people to love and who love us and we shouldn’t take a single day for granted. Even the person who causes you much distress will one day be gone permanently. As the year draws to a close, let us all live every day as though it was our last.
On another note, if you need help with your grief, please, please please reach out to someone. You are not alone and if you find others incapable of consoling you, please find a grief counselor. If you suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) annually around this time of year for whatever known or unknown reason, please seek help. No one should ever have to grieve or suffer loss alone.
Here is a quote I saw on FB on at unofficial Richard Gere page:
“Someday you will be faced with the reality of loss. And as life goes on, days rolling into nights, it will become clear that you never really stop missing someone special who’s gone, you just learn to live around the gaping hole of their absence.When you lose someone you can’t imagine living without, your heart breaks wide open, and the bad news is you never completely get over the loss. You will never forget them. However, in a backwards way, this is also the good news. They will live on in the warmth of your broken heart that doesn’t fully heal back up, and you will continue to grow and experience life, even with your wound. It’s like badly breaking an ankle that never heals perfectly, and that still hurts when you dance, but you dance anyway with a slight limp, and this limp just adds to the depth of your performance and the authenticity of your character. The people you lose remain a part of you. Remember them and always cherish the Good moments spent with them.”
Here are some online resources to help:
7 Ways to help someone coping with loss